U Sports, the governing body of Canadian university sports, made the decision late Thursday evening to cancel the national men’s volleyball championship tournament due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The tournament was supposed to have started on Friday at Investors Group Athletic Centre on the University of Manitoba campus. As late as Thursday afternoon, the plan was for the competition to take place with no spectators in the stands.

“Over the past 24 hours, many things have changed in sport across Canada, and it’s a really difficult position to be in as these types of important decisions impact so many people,” U Sports’ chief sport officer Lisette Johnson-Stapley said in a news release. 

The tournament was also supposed to be the swansong for legendary U of M Bison men’s volleyball coach Garth Pischke. During Pischke’s 38 years at the helm, the Bisons have competed in 18 national gold-medal finals and won nine Canadian titles.

This would have been U of M’s 28th national tournament appearance with Pischke running the bench.

“There is mixed emotion in this news,” said Gene Muller, U of M director of athletics and recreation, in a news release.

“Obviously, we are disappointed for the teams participating and for the fans who were excited to see the top men compete, but we understand the exceptional circumstances that COVID-19 has created and we believe that this decision is in the best interest of public safety.”

It will be the first time in the 54-year history of U Sports men’s volleyball that a championship trophy will not be awarded. The women’s tournament in Calgary was also cancelled, marking the first time in its 51-year history that a national championship will not be awarded.

Fans who purchased tickets to the men’s tournament can expect details on how to obtain a full refund in the coming days.

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